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Full text of "The History Of Western Education"

FIRST HALF OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY 369

after the Reform Act had been passed, that anything more was
done. In that year, a new Factory Act, prohibiting the employ-
ment of children under nine, required attendance at school for
two hours a day in the case of all children between the ages of
nine and thirteen ; and a meagre 20,000 was voted " in aid of
public subscriptions for the erection of school-houses for the
education of children of the poorer classes in Great Britain/'
In 1835, 10,000 was granted for the building of a State Training
College for teachers; and four years later a special Committee
of the Privy Council was appointed " for the consideration of all
matters affecting the education of the people." Thus slowly and
reluctantly the State took the first steps towards a national system
of elementary education, but it was not till 1870 that all the child-
ren of the nation were brought into the system. Even then, no
provision was made for secondary education.

Among the protagonists for popular education in the early
part of the century Robert Owen (1771-1858) was the most
outstanding figure. Owen, who was the son of a Welsh shop-
keeper, displayed remarkable business ability at an early age.
Having become part owner of some cotton mills at New Lanark,
near Glasgow, in 1799, he found himself confronted with the
problem of organizing a brutalized factory community, of which
five hundred (about a fourth of the whole) were pauper children.
By a variety of methods, including the institution of a free school
for all the children from five to ten, he changed the whole character
of the place. With characteristic rashness, he inferred from the
success of his experiment that all the evils of society could be made
to disappear as easily as the drunkenness and immorality of
New Lanark. This view he expounded in a series of pamphlets
(1813-1816) which he called A New View of Society, or Essays on
the Formation of Human Character. His thesis was that character
is in no way dependent on the individual but is wholly formed
by external circumstances, apart from the will, and that con-
sequently the difference between good men and bad resolves
itself into a difference of education. Hence a nation has its
destinies in its own hands. " The government of any community
may form the individuals of that community into the best or into
the worst characters.*' " Any general character, from the best to
the worst, from the most ignorant to the most enlightened," he
declares with all the emphasis of capitals in the First Essay,